Job Prospects?

sales_productivityMark (my atheist ex-pastor friend) lined me up with an informal meet-n-greet with someone from sales at his company.  Yesterday I met the sales manager and then went for drinks with one of their top salesmen.

So about Mark’s company…

Mark works for a Christian company that sells to Christian consumers.  It’s a well known company and the product is perfectly suited to have ex-pastors sell to churches, pastors, and lay people.  Christians aren’t the only customers but they certainly are the bulk.  Mark landed this job because all his education and experience made him perfect for it.  He works in the marketing department.  He’s been trying to get me a job in either sales or customer service.

So as I was talking with Lance, the salesmen, I just came right out and asked about salary:

Me: So how many salesmen do you guys have?

Lance: There’s 20 of us.

Me: Ok, so not to shoot for mediocrity, but what is #10 making a year?  What does the middle of the road salesmen make with this company?

Lance: I’d say about $35k a year.  I did the math and I think I’m making about $42k.  I’m not the top salesmen but I am in the top ranks.  Now the bottom guys are probably doing about $25k but if you stay down there too long, you get fired.

A top ranked salesmen is only making $42k?  That’s not what I wanted to hear.

Me: So what kind of person is successful at sales in this company and what kind of person washes out?

Lance: Really you just have to make the calls.  You have to want to make money and you can’t have reservations about up selling.  Sometimes we get “ministry minded people” who don’t sell a lot because they’re so worried about trying to sell someone more product than they need.  I used to be like that, but our product is so awesome I know my customers are going to benefit from it even if they don’t “need” it.  And honestly, if you don’t upsell then you aren’t going to make any money.

Mark: So you have to be hungry.

Me: That’s not a problem for me.

Lance: But some of it is luck too.

Ok, so money is a problem for me.  I’ve never done sales, but I know the product and I know the customer however I don’t know how good I’ll be at this job.  If just showing up and making the calls can at least land you in the middle of the pack, the $35k is what I’ll be looking at.  That sucks!  But will any other company offer me more money?  Can I get a job for over $35k?

These aren’t rhetorical questions dear reader, if you know a job I can get and make more money PLEASE let me know.

I also don’t like the idea of working at a Christian company selling to Christian consumers.  However, my education and experience suits me for this company and they would easily hire me because of that.  What other job is going to look at my resume and say “Seminary education, 10 years as a pastor, those are totally relevant to this position”? Plus, I’ll be working with Mark.  It’s nice to have a friend you work with (and not for).  It’s nice to know that there is someone like me who understands me that I can see nearly daily.

When we were having drinks with Lance the conversation changed into a debate about the existence of God and whether the God of the Bible was a moral being.  Lance is a Christian.  It was neat to have intellectual stimulating conversation about what Mark and I have been through.  Apparently after hours debates with Mark are common at the company.  To be honest, I’m interested in that.  Not that I want to deconvert the company, but I like the idea of changing peoples minds about what it means to be an atheist.

If it was more money I would apply tomorrow.

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37 thoughts on “Job Prospects?

  1. Good luck! I always figure that a job can be a stepping stone. Sometimes you need to take that first step to get moving instead of being essentially stuck. If you’re interested in trying out sales though, go for something that you think is really beneficial to people and that they will enjoy. I really think you have to be able to fully believe your product (s) is excellent or you won’t be able to keep your enthusiam and be successful. On that note, feel free to check out EVER skincare at my website – new, fantastic skincare line that just launched. 🙂

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  2. Well, I do not have much direct experience in sales, but my wife does and I have lived in the trenches while she was mauled in the business.
    She is a great salesperson, always on top but being a woman she had some issues, especially with senior people stealing her accounts, working with people that would sell their kids to a slave ring for an upsell and so on.

    You are right that the salary at this company is not great. They likely exaggerated it to begin with. Also, you have to figure out exactly how much out of pocket you will have. Car, mileage, various biz related expenses, etc. Some companies hire you and then back charge you for office space, assistants or secretaries. Others do the same but only after they give you a year or two to get your sales up.

    In general the world of sales sucks these days. Everybody is an independent contractor (I wish one day something is done about this, as the whole of America is going to be an independent contractor). Also, even as a contractor, they often dictate the hours you have to work, weekends and other shenanigans like that.

    They pretty much told you that if you want to make a living, you have to treat your customers as cattle. You can’t think of them as humans and use the golden rule. You basically have to get them to spend more than they expect to spend getting into the deal. I really dislike that.

    Also, this varies, but when you start a sales job these days, you pretty much need to have 3 months of living expenses in the bank or you are going to be eating cold beans out of a can until they start processing your sales. Almost always you’ll discover that many of the folks you upsold to have since changed their mind and if you are unlucky enough, you’ll get back charged if they already paid you.

    Ask these guys what their turnover is. Better yet, ask the receptionist or someone that is not involved in hiring you. High turnover you can pretty much assume that if you are not a rockstar you’ll join the departed real soon.

    FInally, do you like selling or are you going into it out of desperation?

    You obviously have a lot of experience in dealing with people and listening to their problems. Would a career in counseling work for you?
    I have no idea what qualifications you need, but you could look into community college offerings to get your qualifications and tough it out with your present job.

    Meanwhile, keep thinking about what you are really passionate about. For instance, were I to start over and assuming I were in my 20’s this time around I would do something hands on with mechanical engineering and try to apply that to auto racing, a passion I have had since I was a little boy. Back when I had a chance, I grew up in a society where things like that were deemed impossible unless one was already born into “the business” so to speak. Today I know better. It still helps to be born the son of a race car driver or a famous crew chief, but if you are willing to work hard, you can do it.

    The same is true in many other endeavours. It’s best to find something you are passionate about. This is the only life you have, makes no sense spending so much time doing things you hate (as I am working doing things I hate)

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  3. Have you considered visiting a career counselor? Not only can they help you evaluate your skills and interests to figure out what new career you might want, they’re also really good at translating your existing skills and experience into a great resume. Pastors do have a lot of skills that are transferable, and people who specialize in career counseling know how to market them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I forgot to add that if you like to read, there are some good books out there about changing careers and how to translate your skills and experience into the language of business.Or of non-profits, for that matter–there are a ton of charities that aren’t religious.

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  4. I’m terrible at sales, I’d be fired – but I own my own business and somehow I manage to do some sales with that. Maybe I’ve improved since the last time I was actually doing sales full time…It’s a terrible profession for me..

    Fortunately for me I left the faith prior to seminary and before my ministry was full time, I didn’t depend on it for income (I personally didn’t believe in paid clergy and would have always been bi-vocational but that’s neither here nor there). I always had a skillset to fall back on, or to rely on as an income source (IT/technology/etc)…I have thought and talked to others about using my ministry background as a Chaplain. A good friend of mine is a Chaplain and it’s one of the most beautiful ministries I’ve ever seen, and it’s rewarding…perhaps that’s something you could look into. I’ve learned, much to my surprise, that hospitals aren’t looking for fervent believers to be chaplains, they are looking for people that understand the stages of life, death, and grief…and how to meet people where they are. You seem to get that.

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    • I’ve talked with another member of the Clergy Project (who is publically out as an atheist and left the ministry over 25 years ago), and they mentioned the Chaplain route. They also mentioned I’d be sacrificing fulfillment for pay. I’d like to balance fulfillment and pay, but if I’m honest with myself, pay tips the scales for me. I’ve got young kids and a house. I want my wife to stay at home for at least 3 more years. I know I can’t have everything, which is why I’d be willing to take a job that was unfulfilling so long as it paid well.

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    • I think this is an excellent idea.
      I have been on my death bed a few times, about 12 or 13 years ago. I was waiting for a transplant and things were not going well. So I had a lot of stays in the hospital.

      SOmetimes I had some good times with the chaplain. There was an evangelical one that came to visit once, talked to me for 5 minutes and then he was gone forever. I think the word “atheist” had’t even bounced back from the far wall that he was already in the corridors.

      But there was a woman chaplain, I honestly don’t know the denomination, that was very helpful and kind. Especially since she was busy as hell.

      “Atheists are afraid of death”. I remember telling her. “I do not believe there is a heaven where I get to learn to play the lyre and sing all day” (one of the most soul crushing things that had happened to me was that I lost my singing voice due to the illness). “For me this is all the life I have and right now it sucks”.

      Also, by then I had flatlined a few times and got resuscitated. I think no one will be surprised to hear I did not get to go on a tour of heaven or even met an old pet. No lights, no nothing. Just dreamless non-existence.

      She never once brought on Jesus and repentance and all that stuff, but she listened and back then I needed it because there was no one I could talk to. My wife was a wreck, my pre-teen daughter no longer spoke to me (she was scared, confused and resentful that her tennis playing, motorcycle riding, guitar playing dad she adored was no more. It took years for her to let go of the resentment).

      Unfortunately, I’d like to say she helped me throughout and together we conquered my illness with the sound of violins in the background.
      None of that. Just in my ward, death was a daily occurrence and she had a lot of bereaved family to take care of, but she helped me at times when I needed it. It was valuable help.

      I frankly would prefer the chaplaincy was a laic institution, but it’s really not at the top of my grievances. Some do excellent work and they can really make a difference, especially if their main objective is not to peddle cheap Jesus juice like some do. They should remember that their job is to alleviate the pain of their charges, not make themselves into dragon slaying protectors of the faith. In that framework, the patient is actually more important than Jesus.

      I’d look into it if I were you.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Every time I think of changing careers I go through this. Who will pay me as much as I make now in another industry? I know I would have to take a pay cut, but I am the one who supports my family financially. And my daily grind isn’t hard. I’m good at what I do and I like it. It also kills my soul a bit and doesn’t make sense for me. My advice? If you can afford to cut back- do it now. Don’t overthink it. You can always keep looking and go elsewhere later. The first step will be exciting and worth it. And I look forward to reading about it 🙂

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      • I may be biased, but I think $40K is easily achievable, but then again I stay in a major city where high paying jobs are more abundant.

        In any case, I’m assuming pretaxed $40K? If you work as a financial consultant or financial related sales you could easily hit that figure for entry level. Usually christians fare VERY WELL because they have a pool of contacts in church. This is the case that most financial sales people are easily the wealthiest in churches where I was (much to my huge disdain), so much so that some pastors that I know held part time jobs selling financial products. And yes, banks and financial institutions do employ pastors as sales agents. What a time we live!

        It’s easy for them because the parish trust pastors, making it much easier to strike a deal. Throw in some lame references to Matthew 25:14-30 and Ecclesiastes 11:2 you will be able to sell quite a few investment schemes and financial products.

        The thing is I am not sure if this will work for you – I’m assuming you do not live in a city, commuting around for sales may result in huge costs in gas/time. If you tell people that you’re an atheist your pool of contacts will automatically distrust you, and makes it even harder to sell them “shifty financial products”.

        Regardless, if you are indeed worried about bread and butter, I would say keep your atheism to yourself. Honestly it serves you no good other than giving you some personal pride. Right now I think it’s livelihood that trumps everything eh?

        What about your previous industry construction? Any chance of hooking that up again?

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      • My wife studied and eventually got a job as a financial consultant with one of the best companies in the business. The reason she got hired was because, purely as a strategic idea, she had put down marketing her services to the local churches.

        From that they inferred she was christian and they hired her. Everyone in their office was a fundie. They read bible quotes and prayed before sales meetings.

        Nevertheless, she did very well getting a couple of “best employee of the month in her first 6 months and selling like gangbuster.

        However, that branch office was a nest of fundie christians and the structure was designed to basically use the new hires as appointment setters and giving them the crumbs after stealing their better accounts.

        My wife was very idealistic. It was soul crushing for her, she had a nervous breakdown and eventually she had to quit.

        The ethics in that place were abominable. They routinely sold annuities to people with a foot in the grave, moved money around unnecessarily to build up fees and no one was willing to teach my wife even the simplest things, such as how to do her job. Requests for more training fell on deaf ears and their usual refrain was “just make calls and make appointments”.

        Really good clients of her were stolen from her and the senior managers would just tell her that the deals fell through, not knowing she knew these people and she knew that her seniors had added more business of which she was not part of. She lost, conservatively speaking, close to 30K in commissions in the first 6 months.

        The last straw was when a very good account and the glory (as well as commissions, residuals, etc.) that went with it went to her senior partner. He had asked her if he could take the credit for it since he was short of his quota while she was doing very well. She said no. In fact, it is illegal to do it the way he planned to do it (he was going to pay her commission out of pocket with nothing in writing).

        Finally their boss, and her senior partner golf buddy as well as deacon in the same church, labeled her “not a team player” and she got canned so her partner got the account, and the commission free and clear and he made his quota. The client in question, kept calling her for financial help even after she left the company until I had to tell her that she had to cut the umbilical cord since she was effectively not only working for free, but making money for the company that canned her unjustly.

        We actually even complained with their “internal affairs” office, whom were absolutely flabbergasted at what was going on. But there was nothing they could do because the corruption was at very high levels. Eventually the investigation petered out and they stopped taking our calls.

        Basically, if you have no ethics this is a great business for you as long as you enjoy kissing ass and you don’t mind modern slavery. Also, you cannot have any feelings for regular people and their hard won savings. Your job is to screw them any way you can.

        yes, I am bitter. My wife was already pretty sick before she started there, but this was the coup de grâce. Only now, 3 years later, she is getting a bit better but she spent the last 2 years in bed.

        The logo this company has looks like a triangle. Apparently, other branches are normal, but this one was a nest of christian vipers. Almost makes me hope Christianity is right because if it is, they will all go to hell.
        .

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      • To be fair, this sort of behavior occurs in non-christians as well. I’ve heard horror stories but I’ve also heard/seen good teams running ethical sales.

        At the end of the day, I think it’s really up to you if you can do it. Disclaimer – I am not a financial sales person, but I do think it is something that will take you if you want to sign up even without experience, and if you do manage to find a good firm you would actually be helping people managing their finance. Too many people do not know the importance of planning or have been planning it the wrong way, and it pains me to see predatory behaviors on these poor and ill-informed folks (hmmm now that I think about it, churches are filled with these poor souls to the brim).

        In any case, you may want to try this as an option if you do your only preach on Sunday thing. Try this out for say 6 months while on your sabbatical dime. There is really kind of no lose for you, most of the comms structure works such that they don’t pay out immediately, so you will be building a trickling pool of small payments for say 1-2 years which will help even when you leave the firm and work in a totally different industry. What this means is this – say you make 10K comms within the first 6 months, they will pay out slowly say 200 – 300 each month for the next 1-2 years. These will definitely help out if you do jump to Mark’s firm which pays 35K?

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      • “To be fair, this sort of behavior occurs in non-christians as well. I’ve heard horror stories but I’ve also heard/seen good teams running ethical sales.”

        I wanted to clarify that this is just what the situation was with my wife. I never intended to claim that all religious people in sales behave like that.

        I made my bones in the San Francisco Gulch during the DOTCOM boom and there were plenty of secular (or at least not outwardly religious) unethical people doing unethical things.

        To me there is a difference though: The unethical, secular or not overtly religious people at the very least they are not also claiming the high moral ground.

        “Wow man, you’re really not selling into sales.”

        Yes, I am not a fan. I see nothing wrong with selling. I sell my services all the time. But I can choose to be ethical about it.

        Just recently, an attorney contacted me because he was unhappy about the people that built his new site and wanted to scrap the whole thing and have me build a new one. I looked at the site, I examined his need and I had to tell him he was making a mistake. I could have easily made an extra $3K (Money I could really use right now since my wife has been out of work for over 2 years now and my home expenses hover around $6K a month) and make him happy in the process, but I could not bring myself to do that. It wasn’t even a option I considered once I was sure that with a few hours of work I could remold his website to what he wanted.

        Many other people, religious or secular would not have had the same issues with it. I like to sleep at night knowing I did not intentional screw anyone the day before.

        Absolutely, if you can find a ethical company that sells a needed and well made product or service, sales can be a good career. It can be fulfilling, exhilarating and profitable. But the system is rigged to punish those that want to do their jobs well.

        Sales is also an area where they embraced wholeheartedly the 1099 route where everyone is a “independent contractor”. I don’t have a problem with being a 1099, but you cannot give me a 1099 and at the same time force me to work X number of hours in your office, using your desk, computer, etc. That’s an employee.

        Anyway, I wanted to clarify that I don’t have a vendetta against religious employees or sales in general. I do not approve of what those specific employees and bosses did to my wife and I wanted to warn PNF about what he may encounter once on the job.

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  6. You could work doubles with me, hooking out of the Metro Detroit area, but I doubt that you’ll like the work! LOL. I did telemarketing once and I HATED it. I spent most time calling my friends because it was not easy. You have better people skills than I. You could at least try it out, and see where it goes. You must get paid lovely being a pastor…I don’t know a lot of people who would turn down $35,000. I also don’t know where you’re living or the cost of living for you and your family. I do hope something more profitable turns up for you John. I’m pullin for ya baby! Got my fingers crossed!

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